It’s a Crime not to Read This

So… on Thursday I went along to the inaugural meeting of the local Crime Reading group: this took place in the library and turned out to be an all-women affair, though the facilitator, an ex-librarian, was male.  He proved to be very knowledgeable about crime and got the discussion going; though people didn’t need much encouragement, being a very vocal group.  We began with our favourite authors: M C Beaton was the first to be mentioned, an author towards the cosy end of crime who was referred to throughout as Mrs Beaton, which amused me.  Ian Rankin featured heavily, of course, as did Patricia Cornwell – whom I have yet to read – Kathy Reichs and Val McDermid were also mentioned; many people liked Agatha Christie (which I don’t) and what was surprising in retrospect was how little Sherlock Holmes was mentioned.  A sign of the times perhaps?

There was a potential split between those who wanted to focus purely on books and saw TV adaptations as irrelevant (‘I have only books and radio 4 in my house’ said one) and those – one woman in particular – who seemed very focussed on TV programmes and admitted to reading only ‘short, easy books.’  I suspect most people are like me, wanting to focus on books but also interested in the dialogue between books and other forms – and in particular, whether future books are influenced by past adaptations.  Some people claimed that Ian Rankin’s books, for example, had been changed by TV interpretations of Rebus.  So that will be interesting.

For next month we have a book to read which is based in the Island of Lewis off the coast of Scotland, called Black House.  I’m finding it interesting so far and he evokes the setting well:

And so to the Ale Wagon, where Jan and I discussed Scottish independence and whether the vote would go through if they had it tomorrow.  She reckoned it might…

…and going back to yesterday’s theme, there’s an awful lot of talk about tennis injuries and why the courts are so slippery, but few people seem to mention the obvious: the utterly crappy summer we’ve been having.


Kirk out

Poc! Poc! Poc! Poc! AAAAAhhhh!

Yes, that’s a rally of tennis – and tennis is pretty much all I’ve been watching on the iplayer this week.  There’s not much else around, but in any case I do tend to focus on the tennis to the exclusion of all else, during Wimbledon fortnight.  The highlights so far have included Murray pretty much walking his first-round match and Laura Robson playing a blinder in hers: Rafa has also, sadly, been knocked out as, surprisingly, has Scharapova.  In fact, they’re dropping like flies, amid mutterings that the courts are damp and slippery:

Wimbledon is a special event for me.  The jibe about people only watching tennis for two weeks a year is entirely just; but there are reasons for it: I know Wimbledon as I used to live reasonably close (as London distances go) and I have visited the place several times.  In those days you could get a fairly cheap ticket which would take you on all the outside courts and you could queue for standing room on the show-courts.  It was a great day out, and having been there I feel I know the place: I have an affection for it.  The tournament also has historical value for me: it connects all my summers going right back to when I was eleven and first started watching tennis (I’ve only ever missed a couple of years when I didnt’ have TV), and although some changes have been made including the much-needed roof on centre court, the tournament has remained pretty much the same in all that time.  It’s about the only place where you can’t complain about them calling the women ‘ladies’ because they actually do call the men ‘gentlemen’…

I think it’s high time, though, that women played best of five sets.  I’ve never understood why they don’t, since that is about stamina rather than strength, something women are better at than men.  It would make the women’s game more exciting and unpredictable too, though I have to admit the prospect of listening to Scharapova scream her way through five sets is not inviting.  The bloody woman screams on every shot!!!  Too much…

… and yes, I have heard the most exciting news of the week: that Federer is out!!! – but I can’t realise it yet because I haven’t seen it on the iplayer.  Until things are on the iplayer they haven’t really happened for me.  Good news for Murray, though – he’s in with a real chance now.  Here’s the latest beeb update:

I wait with bated breath…

Kirk out

Sunday Evening, Gather Round…

Another terrific night at Yesim’s last night: plenty of people but not too many; Mark came and told a story about an alien tooth fairy, and I did two poems and sold four Tomatoes Poetry pamphlets!!!  We finished, as usual, with the Yesim’s Music Circle Song – and as always I felt inexpressibly happy at hearing everyone sing my words with such gusto.  This must be what it feels like to be Leonard Cohen…

Speaking of singer/songwriters, Chris Conway has complained that once again he has failed to win the Sports’ Personality of the Year award.  He wonders whether his agent is putting him in for the wrong awards…

He was, however, interviewed on Radio Leicester yesterday by John Sinclair.  I’ll have to see if I can get John to interview me next:

Bradley Wiggins was surely a shoe-in (or spoke-in) for the SPY award – no-one else came close this year.  Much as I like Andy Murray, his dourness and lack of verbosity would have made him a slightly incongruous choice.  Or should we be valuing these qualities in this way?

I had some thoughts on gun control in the US (and everywhere) but my heart is not in it: it’s too horrible to think about.  So meanwhile here is some light music:

Light Music 

(for Eyjafjallajökull)

And it brought back to me my childhood

every second thought

punctured by a scream of metal

straining to get into heaven…

That’s the start of a poem but I can’t remember the rest.  I’ll have to go and look it up.  So for now my little bloglets, enjoy your last week before Christmas.  Remember that the world won’t end if you fail to buy something that’s on your list; remind yourself that spending time with people is more important than spending money on them – and when you’ve done your jobs, put your feet up and have a glass of wine.

Kirk out

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

No, I’m not having what she’s having – such a bunch of explosive affirmatives can only mean one thing – that Murray is through!  What am I saying – he’s not through – he’s through – in the American sense, that is.  He’s done it!  He’s finished!  He’s won it!  Yes – in a five-set thriller finishing at around 2 am our time, Murray beat Djokovic to take his first grand-slam final in the US Open.  Brilliant!  I didn’t stay up to watch this but I knew he could do it and I’m sure it was that knowledge – knowing that I knew – which saw him through.  I like Murray’s dourness – he didn’t have much to say afterwards and, bless him, he knows everyone wants him to gush and to cry, but it’s just not in him and I respect him for that.  He’s neither self-promoting nor self-effacing – he just gets on with it and doesn’t waste time talking.  And whilst they celebrated his great achievement on the radio, they couldn’t resist following it up with the dire warning that there will be ‘terrible pressure’ on him at Wimbledon.  Why ‘terrible pressure’?  Why not ‘great hopes’?  ‘Terrific excitement’?  ‘Enormous joy’?

See what I mean?  They just have to find some Bad News in there somewhere.

It’s About Time

It’s certainly about time Murray won a grand slam event, and possibly in honour of the occasion (or possibly not) Mark has made a video about time, whether we see it as linear or splodgy – or something like that.  It’s quite interesting:

Three-chord Trick

After the Murray-based jubilation there was of course the usual conversation about getting more young people to play tennis.  ‘Well,’ I said, ‘they’ll have to go back in time and reopen all those tennis courts they closed down then.’  To be fair, part of it is because tennis is such a hard game to get good at: until you’ve reached a certain level you just spend all your time chasing balls.  It’s the violin of sports – very hard to get a note out of those strings – though Mark claims the violin is much easier than the guitar.  ‘What?’ I said.  ‘With the guitar all you need are three chords and you can play 90% of all songs ever written!’

I exaggerate but slightly.  But Mark still maintains it’s much harder to play a chord on the guitar than it is to play notes on the violin.  He’s just weird…

I finish with a few thoughts on the humble trouser.  The trouser is always plural, except to a few snobbish couturiers; it’s the area where there is often a lot of commotion (see Viz comic)

– in fact there was a commotion going on in Andy Murray’s at one point during Wimbledon – but one thing we never see nowadays is short trousers.  Mark – again weirdly – maintains that shorts are the same as short trousers.  This is manifestly untrue: shorts can be anything from Bermudas to cut-down denims, whereas short trousers are a formal trouser cut short and formerly worn by boys.  I was thinking this morning that whereas it’s kind of a shame not to have that rite-of-passage for boys when they start wearing long trousers, it was horribly cruel to have to wear short trousers all through a cold winter.

Anyone out there old enough to admit to wearing short trousers?  As a boy, I mean – women need not apply.

Kirk out

A Mars Day

Curiosity may have once killed the cat, but today it landed on Mars and sent back a tweet.  ‘Landed on Mars’, it said, or words to that effect.  ‘Weather terrible, wish you were here.’

But!  Here on earth, though it seems like heaven, Andy Murray has won gold!!!  It was a terrific match; sad they didn’t win the mixed doubles but Azarenka played better than Robson, who was good in the first set but then faded.  They didn’t even play best of three, just just a ‘best up to ten points’ in the third.  I was so on tenterhooks during the men’s final that I hardly relaxed and enjoyed it – but it was so great to see Andy playing like the champion we all know he can be.  Federer didn’t play his best by any means – but the match was won by Murray every bit as much as it was lost by Federer.  Afterwards Murray swung up through the stands, Tarzan-like, to embrace his girlfriend and his mother and everyone else he found there before coming back to earth for the medal ceremony.  Whether through emotion, forgetfulness or an understandable Gallic reluctance to sing the National Anthem, he just mouthed a couple of words and generally stood there dazed with happiness.

A great moment.

But sometimes, when you want something – and have wanted it for so long that your heart aches with wanting – there’s a sense of anti-climax when it finally happens.  It takes a while to sink in – and then you start to enjoy it.  And so it is: I’m enjoying this now, as I write about it, much more than I did at the time.

And then we watched ‘Vertigo’.  It’s a great film: I hadn’t seen it for decades, and it reminded me at times of ‘Last Year in Marienbad’ as well as ‘The Prisoner’ in the unpeopled emptiness and dreamlike atmosphere of some of the scenes.  It’s a Pygmalion-like murder mystery: a man dressing and arranging a woman for a purpose of his own, and then another man doing the same thing with the same woman in order to uncover the original story.  In the end it’s clear that she has to die – she is guilty of being implicated in murder – but equally the James Stewart character can’t kill her because that would show him in an even worse light – so in the end she dies in an accident which, Nemesis-like, mirrors the original faked accident (really murder).

But Hitchcock is not so much a moralist as an instrument of dramatic nemesis: he understands that certain things must happen in order for the drama to be ‘right’ – and so like one of the Fates he cuts the strings of his puppet-characters and down they fall.

In terms of modern crime stories the plot of ‘Vertigo’ is somewhat naive – but I think we’ve got rather too hung-up on plot nowadays at the expense of other aspects of drama.

And now I must get on with the vacuuming.  Such is fate…

Kirk out

Now is the winter of our discotheque/made Donna Summer by this son of Bjork

I have decided that my philosophy of the day is ‘live each day as though exciting things are about to happen’.  I may not keep this up for very long but I think it’s better than the alternative, ‘to live each day as though it were your last’.  I’m not sure that would work for me, as it didn’t for ‘Peanuts’, when Charlie Brown suggests this to Lucy and she goes beserk, screaming ‘I’m going to die!  I’m going to die!  Today is my last day on earth!’  Charlie Brown turns to ‘camera’ and observes phlegmatically, ‘Some philosophies aren’t for all people’.  I guess if you apply the same to my philosophy du jour, you’d get someone constantly on the edge of their seat, watching the door and waiting for the phone to ring.  Whereas for me it just means getting on and doing stuff – and having hope, rather than simply filling up the day until something happens.

Dribbling without spitting

Which it will!  Because Murray is in TWO Olympic finals today.  The poor bloke will be exhausted whether or not he beats Federer: I think if it’s best of 3 sets he’ll have a good chance but I read something somewhere which suggests it’s best of 5: a little odd as they’ve been playing 3 all the way along.  I watched some interesting events yesterday besides the tennis – the synchronised diving was awesome, as was the Men’s 100 metres sprint: and something I hadn’t seen before anywhere – women’s football.  I have no interest in football at all but it was great to see women doing all the things you usually see men doing – diving for the ball, crossing and scoring; dribbling – in fact everything except the near-universal gobbing that male footballers seem to find necessary.  ‘Not the Nine o’clock News’ did a great sketch about it called ‘Gob of the Month’ – can’t find this but here’s another song from the Fab Four about gobbing:

Great Expectorations

Thankfully gobbing is not tolerated in tennis.  I can’t imagine how the Wimbledon officials would blench if any of the players were to try it.  The men’s final is at 2 pm, by which time I shall be ensconced in front of Peter’s TV.

Come on Andy!

Had a great time yesterday watching the parade in the Caribbean Carnival:

Oh, and the title is because they are doing Richard III outdoors as part of the Castle Park festival.  Wish we could go but the tickets are £12, alas!

Kirk out


That’s the sound inside my head this morning where two-and-a-half pints of Barnsley Bitter contend with a half of porter.  I know, three pints – it’s not much.  But alas!  I am only half the woman I used to be.  I used to think nothing of downing five pints of an evening; now I don’t think much of it.  Ho ho.  My body has put its foot down and my liver has cried ‘enough!’  And now I am but a shadow of my former self.  Ah well.  Anno domini and all that…  The good news is that the Ale Wagon liked the idea of Drink and Think and were quite happy for us to go ahead with it.  So I’ll keep you posted.

Great news about Murray being through to the final.  The way he played against Djokovic, I think he can beat Federer.  But even if he doesn’t, he’ll still get silver, which will be brilliant.  It’s interesting that they’re playing best of three, too – it puts a lot of pressure on both players especially if you lose the first set.  Apparently Federer’s match against Del Potro went to 19/17 in the third set!  If Murray wins the first set as he did in the Wimbledon final it could be a great match.  It’s on Sunday.  Can’t wait.

Today I shall be mostly… buying paracetamol and going to see the Caribbean Carnival.

Kirk out

The Emperor’s Nude

I have finished the Wimbledon limericks!  Here they are:

All Wimbledon hangs on the premise

that Britain goes out in the semis

to Roger or Rafa

whichever’s the gaffer

let’s see who the creme-de-la-creme is


But that status quo’s gone to heck

now Nadal’s been knocked out by a Czech

his game hit a trough

and now all bets are off

and the Spanish Armada’s a wreck


And now – could there be? – just a smidge,

a sliver of hope in the fridge

where British hopes shiver

– an arrowless quiver

till Murray stepped up to the bridge?


Yep.  This is it.  There’s no ‘plan B’

the nation as one cheers for Andy

but can our hoped be dashed?

Will his lob be smashed?

Will he serve like Atilla or Gandhi?


He makes it!  The semis – he’s through!

Just dropping a new ball or two

against Ferrer – and then Tsonga

(that match goes on longer

and ends with a Hawk’s Eye view)


The day dawns: he wins the first set!

But breathe out, cos it ain’t over yet

now Roger returns

his volleying burns

and the Scot puts some into the net.


A rain-break: they put on the roof

and now Murray is on the back hoof

he’s caught on the hop

now Roger’s on top

and in four sets age conquers the yoof


It’s sad to see runners-up cry

Andy lifts up the mic to the sky

and each burning tear

dissolves into next year

– so, until the Olympics, goodbye.


I’ve finished ‘Bring up the Bodies’, Hilary Mantel’s sequel to ‘Wolf Hall’ – in fact I read it so fast that I’m now re-reading it.  What struck me about the description of Henry’s mental and legal contortions in casting off Boleyn so that he can marry Jane Seymour, is how reminiscent it is of Stalin, as described by Solzhenitsyn in ‘The First Circle’: Mantel’s Tower of London is very like the Lubyanka.  I’m working up to posting a full review of the book but will wait until I’ve digested it a bit more.

The Emperor Has a Lisp

I was also wondering this morning about the causes of accents – and, for example, whether the sing-song of Welsh is related to the hilly country in which they live.  But that doesn’t necessarily seem to apply in other hilly places.  Sometimes a linguistic feature can be traced to one person: for example King Fernando (as in Fernando and Isabella) of Spain had a lisp – and rather than point out to him that he had a speech impediment, the whole court imitated it and it became a part of the language.

Although others claim that this doesn’t stand up:

But what I think is true, is that we owe to Fernando and Isabella the word ‘tantamount’: in order to express the equality of their rule, the phrase ‘tanto monta Fernando, tanto monta Isabella’  (as much as Ferdinand rides, so does Isabella) – hence ‘tantamount’ – equal to or amounting to the same thing.


Today I shall be mostly… clearing out the kitchen cupboard.

Kirk out

Forlorn Tennis Association

The nation sobs as one.  Alas, poor Andy: what can I say?  Apart from a mere couple of loose shots, he couldn’t have played any better: he came out for a blistering start and won the first set 6-4; looked poised to take the second or at least to go to a tie-break – when Federer swooped down like an avenging angel and played practically supernatural tennis to go one set all at 7-5.  After that a rain-break and the placing of the roof favoured the Swiss (though he’d probably have done it anyway) and he won in four sets.  There was little Murray could do, and afterwards he could barely speak into the mic which someone had so cruelly shoved into his hand.  Poor bloke!  I expect all he wanted was a shower and a good cry in private.  Instead he was asked to speak to the nation.

Post-mortems were carried out in pubs all over the country, including Yessim’s cafe where I was invited by Jan to participate in their fortnightly folk club.  I really enjoyed this though was somewhat nonplussed at being asked to perform two minutes after the start, as I’d just gone along to watch.  Eventually remembered a couple of verses of ‘The Ballad of the Bowstring Bridge’ – if you can’t remember your own words then there’s not much hope for you – which went down well.

A planned car-trip has had to be cancelled for today, so Peter and I are going by bus to Market Harborough.  Or possibly Margate Harbour, we shall see.

What’s Inner Name?

Can’t bring myself to talk about Murray now – must just wait and see.  In the meantime there was a terrific women’s final yesterday and an amazing men’s doubles in which a pair including a Brit (interestingly named ‘Marray’!) won the championship, having got into Wimbledon on a wild card!  (I’m not entirely sure what this is but it means they didn’t qualify).  Astonishing!  Whether it was the crowd, or the example of his almost-namesake, Marray was on fire – he served and returned with almost preternatural speed and accuracy.  Great stuff.

Had a disturbed night due to a financial crisis (don’t ask).  This is happening so often now that it’s becoming boring – but at 3 am the imagination takes off and thoughts of destitution rampage through the mind like a Federer serve through the court…. NO – we’re not going there.  Enough.  So, I was awake for a couple of hours and after a great deal of agonising I got up and wrote my diary.  Felt better after that.

There is a theory that your name determines what you are: that it is in some sense deeply connected to your inner self.  I don’t buy it but sometimes you have to wonder…  I’ll leave you with that thought.

Kirk out